My eyes are set on the water smashing against the boat. I feel a little sick and I have butterflies in my stomach at the same time. My face is an open book and my friend Bea puts her arm around me. Dive Master Andy again about his fish Angel who will we meet once we’re down there. He claims he taught her to eat bubbles. I am distracted and keep asking myself if I really want to be twelve metres below the surface. But my time is up. Regulators in your mouth, hands on your equipment and go!
After that first dive my fear and doubts faded away. Without a doubt Colombia is an amazing country to obtain your diving certificate. At low rates you can do your diving course and discover the colourful world deep underwater with a great biodiversity in flora and fauna. We did meet Andy’s fish Angel that day, the Angel Fish snatched air from the bubbles from Andy’s regulator. Another bonus are the snacks you get between dives: they are awesome.
Unfortunately a lot of tourists have discovered cheap diving in Colombia. This has resulted in over-tourism in popular diving spots, such as dive sites around the village Taganga. It is cheap and easy to dive in these areas, but it is also important to note that overcrowded diving spots are bad for the coral reefs and the biodiversity of the area. I visited Taganga and I left the village the same day because it was too crowded for me. I started looking for an alternative diving destination. This was when I discovered Capurganá, a hidden gem for divers.
Capurganá is located on the Caribbean coast close to the border of Panama. It is a lightly populated village, as it does not have more than 1500 inhabitants. There is only one PADI certified resort in Capurganá: Dive and Green. The dive resort is lead by two diving instructors and Darryl (the dog). Usually they do not allow groups bigger than 5 to go for a dive at the same time because their boat is quite small. At this school you can do all PADI courses, including your Open Water, Advanced and Divemaster. I obtained my Open Water certificate at Dive and Green. There is a fixed price for obtaining a diving certificate in Colombia (for PADI resorts at least) and therefore it is unlikely Dive and Green charges more for a certification or fundive than other PADI dive resorts in Colombia.
Electricity is scare in Capurganá, which isn’t a suprise since the village is remote. Between 00:00 and 6:00 there is no electricity in the entire village and there are quite a few blackouts during the day too. I will never forget that I did my PADI exam with candle light. There are plenty of options for accommodation and restaurants so you don’t need to worry about that. However, there are some other things you need to consider before your visit to Capurganá. Firstly, there is no road to reach Capurganá, and therefore you need to travel by boat or airplane. To travel by boat you can take a bus from Medellín to Turbo or Necoclí and take a boat from there. There are no ATM’s in the village and Wi-Fi connection is very limited, so make sure to bring enough cash and a book!
You don’t have to worry about getting bored in Capurganá since there are plenty of fun activities to do in this area besides diving. For example a visit to the neighbouring village Sapzurro. I am not sure how many inhabitants the village has but it is even smaller than Capurganá. There are two ways to reach the village from Capurganá: by foot or by boat. There is a path from Capurganá to Sapzurro that takes about 2 or 3 hours. If you’re not up for walking you can ask the fishers at the peer to take you to Sapzurro. Their level of English is limited but they are always willing to help you out for a small price.
There are more hiking trails around Sapzurro and you will discover white beaches covered in rocks and waterfalls hidden in the forest. Ask a restaurant owner, in an accommodation or someone on the street what the best options are for hiking trails. They’d love to help. It is important to make a reservation at a restaurant if you want to grab a bite in Sapzurro, especially at night. There is a limited amount of food shipped to Sapzurro each day and chances are restaurants run out of food for a day. This happened to me, but luckily one of the fisherman invited me in their house to grab a bite with them.
Another day trip I highly recommend if you want to take a break from diving is a trip to Miel in Panama. Miel is a special village since it is the only village located on the Caribbean side of Panama that can be reached from Colombia by land. Admittedly, besides a beautiful white beach there is not much to do in Miel. But just imagine yourself hanging out at the beach with a Panamese beer in your hand, it is definitely worth it. A little disappointment was the fact that you do not get a stamp from Panama in your passport when you cross the border. You can reach Miel by foot from Sapzurro or sail along with a fisher boat from Capurganá or Sapzurro.
DIVING WITH DIVE AND GREEN
Your diving course or a fundive is a special experience. In Capurganá this special experience comes with a little extra. During your stay you are surrounded by astounding nature and insanely friendly people. The coral reefs are healthy and during my Open Water course I felt like dive resort Dive and Green worked hard to protect the reefs and the biodiversity in the area. Read more about the 30 dive sites in Capurganá. For beginning or advanced divers Capurganá is a very good alternative to diving areas that are subjected to the consequences of over-tourism. To me Capurganá is truly a hidden gem and definitely worth a spot on your travel itinerary.